Tag Archives: Haiti

Distant Drumming Traditions Brought Together

Various Artists – Tambours Croisés Chapter 2 (Buda Musique, 2016)

The Tambours Croisés project celebrates the drumming traditions of France’s overseas territories. For this second volume of the project, the producers also invited musicians from two former French colonies, Haiti and Senegal.

The majority of the pieces have a similar format, featuring vocals or chants and drumming. There is a mix of traditional songs and original works by the participants as well as a final jam.

The album is part of a larger project that included tours, workshops, and a photo exhibition

The artistic director, Thierry Nossin brought together a larger cast for this second volume. Ideally, he wanted a vocalist and a drummer from every country or territory. The artists featured include griot singer Coumba Arame Mbaye and master drummer Alioune Seck from Senegal; the Martinique representatives are Nenetto (René Capitaine) and Beatrice Alcindor on vocals and Claude Jean-Joseph on drums.

Drummer Joël Jean and vocalist Marie-Line Dahomay hail from Guadeloupe. The artists from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean are Eno Zangoun on vocals and Zelito Deliron drums.

Guyana is represented by singer Yannick Théolade. Diho provides the singing tradition of Mayotte. Lastly, two artist arrived from Haiti, vocalist Guerline Pierre and drummer Jackson Saintil.

Buy Tambours Croisés Chapter 2 in the Americas

Buy Tambours Croisés Chapter 2 in Europe

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Artist Profiles: Boukman Eksperyans

Boukman Eksperyans

The revolutionary music of Boukman Eksperyans is a unique blend of roots, Vodou jazz, Zairian soukous and reggae, built on a foundation of traditional African rhythms and Caribbean melodies.

The band also promotes a spiritual message of freedom, unity, and faith, taking its name from a Haitian revolutionary named Boukman Dutty, a slave and Vodou priest who helped unify the Haitian slaves in a revolution against the French colonists in 1791.

Boukman’s first CD, Voudou Adjae, introduced traditional Vodou to a worldwide audiencetheir second, Kalfou Danjere (Dangerous Crossroads), was a direct response to the military overthrow of then Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The group’s third release, Liberte (Pran pou Pran’l!) was recorded while the group was in exile in Kingston, Jamaica.

On July 29th, 2002, lead singers Theodore “Lolo” Beaubrun, Jr. and his wife, Mimerose “Manze” Pierre Beaubrun of Boukman Eksperyans were named official United Nations Ambassadors for Peace and Goodwill by the World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows (WAFUNIF).

This distinguished title of United Nations Goodwill Ambassador was bestowed on Lolo and Manze in recognition of their tireless efforts to promote Love, Peace, Respect and Unity through their music, which has transcended all cultural barriers. They were also been asked to spearhead the creation of WAFUNIF’s Culture of Peace Learning Center in Haiti, which will be a school designed to introduce modern technology to poor countries around the world.

The school will provide poor, underprivileged children with computers, books, music and dance programs, and other digitally enhanced approaches to learning. The schools are created as part of a mandate for a Culture of Peace established in the UN General Assembly resolution 53/25 on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World 2001-2010.

While the members of Boukman Eksperyans survived the devastating Earthquake to their homeland of Haiti, each has been personally affected as all Haitians have been.

Discography

* Voudou Adjae (Mango 16253 9899, 1991)
* Kalfou Danjere/Dangerous Crossroads (Mango 162-539 927, 1992)
* Libète (Pran Pou Pran’l!)/Freedom (Let’s Take It!) (Mango 162-539 946, 1995)
* Revolution (Lightyear, 1998)
* Live at Red Rocks (Lightyear, 2000)
* Kanaval Rasin – Vodou Adja (Tropic / Converge, 2000)
* La Révolte Des Zombies (2009)

Web site

http://www.boukmaneksperyans.com

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RAM to Perform at Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami

RAM
RAM

Haitian roots (misik rasin) band RAM is set to perform on November 5, 2016 at Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami. RAM is based in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. RAM 6: Manman m se Ginen, the new album from RAM includes many moods and styles, rooted in vodoo rhythms.

RAM started performing in 1990, and released its first album, Aïbobo, in 1993. The band’s music features traditional vodoo lyrics and musical instruments, for instance rara horns and petwo drums, into modern dance music and rock sung in Kreyol and English.

Buy RAM 6: Manman m se Ginen

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Length & Time: Sevana Siren

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.

The quotidian elegance of Jamaica’s women flows forth from the culture of the Akan groups of present day Ghana, along with that of other immigrants who’ve populated the Caribbean island. The archaeology of Akan culture has presented findings that are much more elegant than the creations of the Yoruba, the people from Dahomey, and the Kongo who populated the remainder of the Caribbean. Akan art is clean and their Kente clothing patterned.  Their language, Ashanti, Asante, or Twi, is one of power and beauty, of brilliant tonality, of pride in selfhood, being that Ashanti (the most dominant of the Akan) itself translates to ‘descending from war.’

In a polity that descendants of these Akan now live, Jamaica, this femininity exists side by side with the need to thrive in Jamaican capitalist society, a ‘plantocracy’ is what President Michael Manley called it, and the urbanite conviction that the society that they desire will come from political action. Protesters are produced alongside a middle class that seeks to live in a capitalist society that is somewhere between wanting to an industrial society because of cheap labor and a post-industrial society because such a society is so good to Americans and those who live in Europe. These descendants of the Akan have been a revolting people and the Jamaican maroons are now well known. A Jamaican Boukman (man with a book) even participated prominently in the Haitian revolution.

Sevana Siren is a singer of  artful reggae pop songs as if a Jamaican version  of Brazil’s MPB genre. They are songs full of synth wherein we hear acoustic guitars and acoustic drums: meld-ings. They feel traditional because of their instrumentation, as if artful pop steeped in Jamaican tradition (though limited to the traditions that begin during Jamaica’s 20th century.)

Her songs are well written and well constructed, positive in the land of both reggae and dancehall. Her first album Sevana is titled to express self-hood. It is a reggae album. The cover is elegant pop, as elegant as her songs, pointing us in the direction of the identity that is at the foundation of this music: vibrant femininity.

 

 

Their texts are sentimental balladry: that of a woman with modernist and postmodernist sentiments. Case in point is her song “Bit Too Shy” where she is honest about how shy a boy is and the initiative that a girl must take to woo him. Its video features her in minimal, elegant, style, singing along to maximal melody: an enthralling figuration of reggae.

To her times, she sings self-hood artfully, not in its anthropological sense, but in the same sense that an artful European or American singer expresses self-hood today. This self-hood is elegant (her songs are from beginning to end,) as elegant as many Jamaican women are on a minute to minute basis.  This self-hood is loud and proud. It is full of parables “no, you can’t be dirty” that tale us that Sevana‘s art is a crystallization of what is beautiful, melodic, about Jamaica’s everyday.

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Length & Time: AZ

AZ - "Demen Mwen Prale"
AZ – “Demen Mwen Prale”

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time. 

She’s yet to release an album but her song “Demen Mwen Prale” thrills Port au Prince. The song’s video is also exciting. It’s a simple song wherein her grave singing is accompanied mostly by an acoustic guitar.

Her artist name, her nom de guerre, is AZ. It is short for Asaphe Micaelle Jean Louis. She is a philosopher and teaches philosophy to High Schoolers.

She’s said in an interview that she spent some years, her years of university, living like a Diogene, an idealist, but changed when she got married and began both her singing and teaching careers. She writes some of her songs and for them she would like to express ideas that are debated in philosophical space where philosophy meets music such as in the works of Nietzsche, Adorno, and others. When performing live, she sings Jazz songs also – whatever song she considers beautiful.

Her first album will be released soon, “Sonje.” The title is Haitian kreyol for ‘remember.’

So far, she is not a political singer. She would like to sing art to her times, art that roots itself in aesthetics (philosophy.) Her songs are radio songs, made for alternative play. They are as if made to be played ideally in ‘cafe space,’ with the hopes that they come to resonate as much as a Trova or a chanson. They are the beginnings of what Barbara achieved in France and Omara Portuondo in Cuba: songs that are deeply ‘art.’

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Length & Time: Arly Lariviere

Arly Lariviere - Encyclopedie
Arly Lariviere – Encyclopedie

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time. 

Arly Lariviere is contemporary Haiti’s great singer of artful romantic drama. He sings his songs in a mix of English, French, and Kreyol, to a nation that now speaks a multitude of languages because of emigration.

His album Encyclopedie is widely considered to be a masterpiece in his native Haiti. He sings romantic, electronic, dramas (about raising a child, being in love with a woman, asking a woman to love him back,) as one would sing a tragedy. In ancient Greece, tragedies featured a hero and were sung with dignity; Arly’s hero is often either himself or a woman in love and full of dignified singing. Like in classical tragedies, hero Arly often causes the drama / tragedy.

To sing drama to late 20th century and 21st century Haiti, one must be sure to not delve into soap opera like melodrama. Life is tragic for most Haitians, whether rich or poor, and Haitians are very attuned to the details of national or personal tragedy that affect them. Arly’s great chance, and the reason for his success, is that he is the son of Daniel Lariviere: the greatest Haitian songwriter (of secular songs) of the 20th century. Daniel Lariviere was the songwriter of Orchestre Tropicana, considered by Haitians to be the very best Orchestra of the 20th and now 21st century.

His father’s son, he makes sure to anchor his songs onto both poetry and popular sentiment. His lyrics remind of the poems that Haitians love: poems that root themselves in both French poetry history (Boileau, Malherbe) learned in school but also in Kreyol expression.

To sing drama to 20th and 21st century Haiti, one must also sing identity. The 20th century saw a massive move by Haitians from the countryside to the city and from it new urban identities. The 20th century also was that of a development of an urban middle class at the same time as vast economic decrepitude that came to influence every aspect of Haitian life, including language. Arly presents a valid identity when he sings, a heroic identity, truthful about being in love.

On Encyclopedie, the song not to miss is “Avenue De La Passion.” It is a song that is splendid both in its instrumentation and in its text. “Why Do You Say You Love Me?” is now a dramatic classic to Haitian society and, to it, at the highest level of art in music.

His songs are produced to be long enough for radio but added to when played live. They are slow songs but very successful because they are poetic songs, written by a musician who can also be considered a public poet.

Buy Encyclopedie

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Lakou Mizik Releases “Pran Ka Mwen” Music Video

Lakou Mizik
Lakou Mizik

Haitian roots band Lakou Mizik has a new music video featuring the track “Pran Ka Mwen” from the new album “Wa Di Yo.”

The video was developed, produced and directed by graduating students from Cine Institute, Haiti’s only film school.

The song “Pran Ka Mwen” was adapted and updated by Lakou Mizik from an old song performed by a woman named Francilia and recorded by the ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax in 1935. In Haitian Kreyol “Pran Ka Mwen” means ‘take care of me.”

Cine Institute is a division of Artists Institute, a scholarship based school focused on growing Haiti’s creative economy through professional training in Filmmaking, Audio Engineering and Music Production. To support the organization, visit: http://www.artistsinstitute.org

Buy “Wa Di Yo

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Length & Time: Chouk Bwa Libete

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time. 

Most bands who claim to be playing Vodou music are not really: there isn’t enough time to play music how it is required in a Vodou ceremony. The point of drumming, singing, etc, in a Vodou ceremony is for there to be a possession and or a communication with Vodou spirits.

There is no way that such a phenomenon can be formatted for radio. One would have to wait for the spirit to possess someone in a ceremony or record a believer’s singing in private to a spirit. In Haiti, a subgenre of Vodou music, Rasin, was created to be Vodou music that is meant for any sort of consumption, whether secular or sacred but tailored for radio use and for contemporary performance.

Some bands, however, aim to stay true to music how it is used in Vodou religion and they play Vodou as such, Rasin Seche, or whatever they would like to call it. Azor is perhaps the most notable Haitian musician of Vodou as such, or Rasin Seche. Like in a Vodou ceremony, he sang his songs as a Simidor, surrounded by Hounsi and Reines Chantrelles. His songs, because of this, were often up to 10 minutes long. Chouk Bwa Libete’s songs on Se Nou Ki La are midway between this raw Rasin Seche and the more commercial Rasin for both secular and non secular consumption. We hear Chouk Bwa Libete sing praises to themselves on this album as no Vodou spirit expects from an officiant.

It is, in the end, an album that makes use of length to express the art of the musicians on this album and not to be a Vodou album. The lengthiest song “Je M La” is 7:53, nowhere near the amount of time it takes on average to serve a Vodou spirit. It has no choice but to: the demand for Vodou music, ceremonial music, is very small. Instead, this album, like many other albums like it, plays Vodou rhythms and Vodou lyrics as art.

Buy Se Nou Ki La

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Lovin’ Haiti

Despite the persisting perception that Haiti is a place most readily associated with brutal dictatorships, impoverished masses and natural disasters, it is more so a land of great music. African and Creole roots have combined with varying levels of outside influence, evolving technology and a growing diaspora, resulting in a music scene that includes such globally renowned artists as Tabou Combo, Boukman Eksperyans, RAM and Emeline Michel.

The underlying African-birthed grooves of Haitian music give it a rhythmic flexibility that’s rife for fusion or simply being left to move you on its own indomitably spirited terms.

Lakou Mizik - Wa Di Yo
Lakou Mizik – Wa Di Yo

A multigenerational band calling itself Lakou Mizik takes a largely traditional approach on Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha, 2016). But despite being heavy on voudou drums, rara horns and melodies steered in no small measure by the Francophone sway of an accordion, the group also makes a few concessions to modern times in the form of electrified guitar and bass and even an occasional hip hop cadence in the vocals. Make no mistake, though. This crew, which formed in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, is mostly about passing along the music of the older generations to the younger ones.

Some tracks are traditional songs but as many are originals, and the fact that both are equally strong in terms of waist-winding infectiousness, joyously evocative singing and rhythmic forward motion is a testament to the mettle of those who created the music and the culture that created them. Highly recommended.

Various Artists - Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti 1960-1981
Various Artists – Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti 1960-1981

A title like Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti 1960-1981 (Ostinato Records, 2016) may be wordy, though it’s barely sufficient in summarizing the variety of richly superb music the compilation of that name includes. Through the course of 19 tracks from a shade over two decades, you’ll want to dance yourself into ecstasy as your ears absorb the ingenious ways in which the rhythmic and vocal cadences of Haiti blended with Afro-Cuban, Colombian, pan-Caribbean, mainland African, soul, jazz, psychedelic and big band influences, resulting in irresistible music that such terms as “melting pot” and “golden age” don’t describe the half of.

From the rumba-like percolating of Les Gypsies de Petionville to the Latin stew of Super Jazz de Jeunes and stirring majesty of Orchestre de la Radio National D’Haiti, the 75 minutes of music on this disc (which was the result of considerable scouring about in both Haiti and New York City by compiler Vik Sohonie) resounds with must-have essentialness from beginning to end. Simply amazing. (www.ostinatorecords.com)

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra

The self-titled CD by Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra (Glitter Beat, 2016) benefits from the presence of Afrobeat drummer extraordinaire Tony Allen on the kit and a host of noted Haitian percussionists and singers recruited by vocalist and ethnology standard-bearer Erol Josue. They’re joined by Mark Mulholland (guitar), Jean-Philippe Dary (bass) and Olaf Hund (keyboards, electronics) on a set of crazy-cool jams culled from rehearsal sessions that were done in preparation for a live festival performance in Haiti a few years back. The raw tracks were given cohesive mixes, and the results hit the mark.

Allen’s chugging, serpentine drums blend seamlessly with multiple hand percussion layers above call-and-response vocals sung and chanted as bending, twisting waves of contemporary sound take everything on a wildly controlled ride. Haiti’s African roots are brought into the present and thrust headlong into the future, and though some moments are spliced a little too cacophonously, the album is an invigorating listen with a lot of inspiration behind it. Let’s hope the participants can get together again sometime.

Headline photo: Lakou Mizik

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